Before the digital age, music presented an already complicated business for artists to understand. But the fragmentation created by the Internet has created a baffling array of rights, royalties, and revenue streams, along with innumerable organizations authorized to collect these revenues. I’ve been in the music business for a couple of decades now, releasing albums. I’m still surprised to learn things I didn’t know. This post attempts to break down the various royalties and rights, and how they are collected. If you don’t already know this—or if you think you know it (like I did) but can’t explain it in detail to someone else—you’re probably losing out on revenue. Continue reading →
In the August 28, 2017 issue of The New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert writes about a the impact of technology on culture. She reviews a new book by Jonathan Taplin, “Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy.” While technology and the Internet have benefited us with convenience and expansive social connectivity (especially for niche areas), it has also damaged culture. That is the premise of the book.
Taplin offers the example of Levon Helm, the drummer for the Band. Though he never got rich off his music, he was supported by royalties into middle age, earning about $100,000 a year. Continue reading →
Recent reports highlight new troubles for the music industry and artists who try to earn a living through music. What the digital realm giveth, the digital realm taketh away. Like so many other developments, these erode cultural support for musicians. I’m no fan of the corporate music industry, which has long taken advantage of musicians, but most musicians these days just can’t win. Continue reading →
Hit factories are nothing new, as John Seabrook chronicles in his fascinating book, The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory. But something noticeable shifted in the mid-2000s that has had an enormous impact on the sound (and, for me, the quality) of pop music. That is Seabrook’s first point. His other point is that, contrary to most predictions that the digital revolution would lead to a new egalitarian era where a thousand music flowers would bloom outside the grip of the record industry, hits have become even more important than before. Continue reading →